Saturday, August 13, 2016

Final Worship at HVPC

Below is my final worship at Harbor View.  It is not normal for me to type out anything, much less the entire service, but since I did, I figured I'd post it here:

Prayer of the Day
This weekend here in Charleston we are reminded that God indeed welcomes all, so this morning we will begin a simple song, which can be found in our hymnal as Hymn 399 God welcomes all, but you may choose to join in the song with the repeating phrase as I lead or just listen for God, we will close the prayer with the words found in your bulletin. God of justice, your word is light and truth. Let your face shine on us to restore us,that we may walk in your way, seeking justice and doing good. Amen.

As many of you may know this is my last Sunday at HVPC, so our first hymn is one of my favourites, originally over 100 verses long, but we will just sing the 5 in our hymnal, Hymn 610 – O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.

Our second hymn this morning is fitting in the midst of the Summer Olympics, a celebration of God's people and world: Hymn 340 – This is my song.

Call to Confession
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely by confessing our sins before God and one another. Let us pray.

Prayer of Confession
For all the hard things we have said to one another
Forgive us, O God.
For all the things we should have said, but didn’t
Forgive us, O God.
For ignoring the lonely
Forgive us, O God.
For changing ourselves just to fit in
Forgive us, O God.
For going along with the crowd
Forgive us, O God.
For listening to those who didn’t have our best interest at heart
Forgive us, O God.
For asking you for worthless things
Forgive us, O God.
For wanting what we don’t need
Forgive us, O God.
For taking what we don’t want
Forgive us, O God.
For taking for granted all the good gifts you give us
Forgive us, O God.
For believing we are alone
Forgive us, O God.
Forgive us, God of Mercy, for not knowing what we do to you, to others, to ourselves. Speak to us through your words filled with tender mercy and gracious hope.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
This is the good news: God prepares a new way for us: a way to grace, to hope, to new life. Joyfully, we offer our thanks.  Amen

Our response is again a countered simple song, Hale Hale Hale, found as Hymn 591 in the hymnal. Again feel free to join in as you feel comfortable or just listen.

Passing of the Peace & Announcements
The peace of God’s grace is meant to be shared with all of God’s creation. Let us share this peace with our neighbors that we might rejoice in the new life in Christ our Shepard.

The Lord be with you
And also with you
Let us great one another with the peace of Christ

Prayer of Illumination
Judge eternal,
you love justice and hate oppression;
you give peace to those who seek it,
and you condemn the rage of violence.
Give us courage to take our stand
with all victims of bloodshed and greed,
and, following your servants and prophets,
look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.

Scripture - Jeremiah 23:23-28
Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord.

The word of God
Thanks be to God

Blessing of Backpacks
Today, we have before us backpacks to be carried to and from school by those gathered here. These backpacks will contain work to be done, work that's been returned, books to be studied, tools to complete homework. Notebooks, pencils, pens, protractors, compasses, crayons, rules, scissors, glue sticks and other items used for school work will find their way in and out of these backpacks. Some days, so much stuff will fill these backpacks that the student may find it difficult to walk. Other days, they will be light and nearly empty. But on each and every day, these backpacks represent work required of the students gathered here. And, as in every aspect of our life, we bring these before God for blessing at this time.

Let us pray together:
God, bless these bags and each child who will use it. May they not be scared, be with them as they learn and grow this year. Show them how to serve you and others and help them as they teach us all about your love.

We also bless those of you who work in the schools, so if you work in any way with a school, please stand. Lord God, we ask your blessings on these who serve you in so many different ways. We pray that you would give them patience, wisdom, and a sense of humor. Use them to show your love and to grow with those around them in your grace.

Finally we bless all those who are part of the baptismal promises made in this community, so all stand: Each of us are called to support, encourage, and pray for those who are part of our community. We are all called to be teachers and learners alongside these children. We now bless you and remind you of your promises to support these children.

Let us pray. "Lord God, bless all the people you have gathered here today. Especially bless them as they support, protect, and encourage the children among us. May they, with the children, be both teachers and learners. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.


Sermon - Dreams and Reality

This is my last sermon here at Harbor View. Since I will not be preaching at my new call, it'll be my last sermon for a long time, and like the timing of my move, the text today is not one I would have chosen as it is far too often misinterpreted and misunderstood. This text speaks of God being against dreamers, and dreamers being against God.

Too often this text is used to argue that those who challenge us to do more, to think about creating God's world of Love and Justice, to open our doors and hearts wider, are working against God. But that interpretation misses the very thing that the text is trying to tell us. The dreamers in this text are not picturing what should be, or even what could be, but instead speak of going back to what was (that which is comfortable, and insular to their community) while using the fear of the unknown to control God's people (“don't look forward, remember how great it used to be!”). This echoes the song that was sung a few youth Sunday's ago “Painting Pictures of Egypt” which spoke of the idea of the hebrew people making the very idea of being slaves something rosey and better than following God in a hard time. These dreamers found others at fault and those listening were to get all they wanted. Like those dreamers, these were dreamers stuck in the past, trying to provide happy memories in place of real hope. These were dreamers telling you who to hate and how they would be cut down to size in the future.

We too often want these dreamers in our world today. Tell us who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Tell us that the past when we felt powerful and comfortable on top of the world is how it should be. Tell us that if the world doesn't return to how it was, then others will get it, so they better get with us. Tell us . . . anything but what God's word says about prophets and what God plans.

Prophets – Tell us where WE'VE gone wrong, or tell us what WE need to change, or tell us about how WE will move forward, not in spite of, but because of the way the world is changing US.

God's Plans – Challenge US to act, Call US to broad new risks, Change US from our limited thinking of God's work and will.

So what about us today? Who are the dreamers, and who are the prophets? The dreamer will tell you that we've lost our way, but that we have the answers. The prophet will tell you that we have lost our way and WE need to change our actions. The dreamer will tell us that we go back to things and things will get better. The prophet will tell you that we are moving forward and that God is already ahead of us and here with us asking us to change and be changed. The dreamer will tell you who is in and who is out, who to fear and who is for you. The prophet will tell you who is out and tell you that you have to welcome them in.

That is the challenge this text leaves us with. To not listen to those wishing for what was, or providing false hope for how things could be again, or match what we know as comfortable. But to hear God's voice in those who are moving us into places uncomfortable, places where we have to face our anxiety. For that is what Jesus does to his followers time and again, make them face the things they don't think are possible and see God doing what God does regardless. So we have to listen to the prophet telling us who we aren't welcoming, listen to the prophet telling us to keep moving further from the center because God is already there, God is not sitting waiting, God is moving out, God is reaching out, God is pushing us out, to be open to whatever it is that will come. To be willing to be bent, to be flexed, to be stretched, and to KNOW we are still in God's hands regardless.

So as I leave HVPC, this is MY challenge to you. Welcome ALL. Risk ALL. Move into the uncomfortable. Seek the God who is Love and LOVE ALL. Love everyone with all you have. Think big and speak with God about what may yet to be. Keep moving towards that unknown, trust ALL you have to a God who love you, and you, and you and you and you and every single one of us created in God's image, even those who we have a hard time seeing God in, God loves him, God loves her. And we must do likewise, not in an effort to save them from something, but simply because we are called to love like God, and God is in each and every one of us. Love! Welcome! Go! Risk! LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Create space for God, and God will create space for Us, but we must listen, and respond.

Musical Response
Our Response comes in the form or one more simple song, We will walk with God, Hymn 742, join the song or listen for God.


Prayers of the People and Lord’s Prayer
Creator God, you call us to love and serve you with body, mind, and spirit through loving your creation and our sisters and brothers. Open our hearts in compassion and receive our gifts, as well as these petitions spoken by our congregation on behalf of the needs of the church and the world.

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

Holy One, hear our prayers and make us faithful stewards of the fragile bounty of this earth
as we pray the prayer you taught your disciples to pray saying:
Our Father who art in heaven . . . Amen

Hymn 726
Our next hymn is one of my favourite new hymns, it is often known as the Summons as it is mostly written as a call from God, Hymn 726, Will You Come and Follow Me.

Following the Benediction, I ask that you join in singing stanzas 1&4? of Hymn 375, Shall We Gather at the River. This was the first song I ever sung in a church, and it is a reminder that while time and space may be put between us, nothing can separate us from the love of God and the community of Faith. Let us share in our Benediction together.
The cross, we will take it.
The bread, we will break it.
The pain, we will bear it.
The joy, we will share it.
The Gospel, we will live it.
The love, we will give it.
The light, we will cherish it.
The darkness, God shall perish it!
Go in Peace!

Response Hymn 375